Dantalian no Shoka:Volume1 Chapter3
It was afternoon in the town. A couple of children were sitting in a circle in a small, dirty classroom.
The room was located in the back yard of a noble's mansion, in an old wooden building. The building was plain in construction and had probably been inhabited by servants. The smell of chalk was in the air of the classroom, whose walls were stained black by the smoke of coal.
On the dilapidated table in the midst of them there were old newspapers and magazines.
"Have you read it?" murmured one of the children listlessly while skimming through a magazine.
The speaker was about twelve or thirteen years old and had eerily resigned eyes that did not consort with his still young countenance. The magazine in his hands was filled with all kinds of complicated formulas.
The children opposite him giggled amusedly.
"If you are talking of Stark's thesis that earned him a Nobel Prize in physics, then yes."
"The same goes for Soddy's research in radioactive decay and Haber's methods for producing chlorine gas."
"Simple, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it surely was."
The children kept on giggling. Another one of them said as he watched a newspaper on the table, "Seems like there was yet another riot at the colonies."
"That is because the committee promulgates those absurd laws!"
"There's also a problem with who was selected for the governor general and the tax system."
"I concur. Why can the adults not even understand such simple things?" someone asked in a honestly wondering tone.
Someone else answered with a laugh, "Because they're fools!"
"Indeed, they are fools, the adults."
"Are we really going to be fine if we entrust the world to those foolish adults...?"
The amused laughter that had filled the classroom stopped abruptly.
They looked at each other with vacant eyes.
There was a very special book on the table they surrounded. There was no author denoted, nor was there any indication of its publishing date. The only evident fact was its old age.
The magnificent leather binding had lost its color during the many years it had witnessed, and one could barely read the title.
The Book of Wisdom. That was the title of the book.
 Chapter 3 - The Book of Wisdom
Episode 03: Liber Sapientiae
 Part 1
Huey awoke in darkness that day.
Someone was violently shaking his resting body, producing the sound of metal clashing from time to time. It was the sound of armor.
"—Wake up, Huey. Huey!"
A slightly lisping girl was calling his name by his ear. While her voice was pleasant and clear, the tone that came with it was haughty.
"Uh..." groaned Huey, while opening his eyes.
He groped for the pocketwatch that was next to his bed, but he found himself unable to read the time from it. The only thing he could tell was that it was pitch black.
The same held true for the scenery outside, which was as dark as in the depths of the sea.
In this darkness stood a small girl with long black hair.
She wore black clothing which blended into the night. The entire garment was adorned with countless laces and frills that were partially covered by metal plates. It was an odd mixture that could neither be called dress nor armor.
And in front of her chest, an old lock, tied by silver chains, shone dimly.
"What happened, Dalian...? It looks as though it is night outside," asked Huey, still bleary-eyed.
"You may rest assured. Your eyesight is perfectly normal," the girl in black that had been called Dalian replied tonelessly.
Huey paused for a moment and then put on a frown, "...what's the time?"
"The sun will rise soon."
"Mh," Huey sat up with difficulty. He could still see nothing but thick darkness outside and could sense no indication of dawn.
The white moon hung in the eastern sky. Not even the roosters of the farmers had awoken yet.
Similarly, Huey had been deep in sleep too, of course, and was violently roused from slumber. By that queerly dressed girl.
"So... why did you wake me so late in the night?" asked Huey in a powerless voice after he had shaken his dozy head.
Dalian was standing vacantly in the darkness, with a incredibly beautiful face that would remind one of a well-crafted porcelain doll. In her arms she was holding a coat, making it evident that she was anxious to go out.
Huey contorted his face slightly upon noticing this, for the only plausible reason for hitting him awake he could think of was that there was some kind of emergency.
Dalian, however, told him with her calm voice, "We are going to the bookstore."
Huey's movements stopped for a few moments. He was gazing at her with eyes that signified his bafflement. Dalian on her part glared back at him and protested, "I'm bored because I have read myself through all books in this mansion. Thus, we are going to buy books."
"...You read yourself through all of them?"
Huey stared at Dalian in amazement.
As hard to believe as it was, she was not carrying a book around with her.
His grandfather, an eminent bibliomaniac, had collected a great number of books from all parts of the world. And as it seemed, those mansion-filling piles had been too few to her.
Unless there was a special circumstance, Dalian was practically always reading some type of book. Other than reading, she did almost nothing. Hence, it had been a mere question of time until she read herself through all of them, which, by chance, happened today, this very moment.
"How long do you plan on counting sheep there? Get on your feet already, you fishmouth," Dalian ranted while looking down to him.
"...a fishmouth, huh," sighed Huey, before he pulled himself together and raised his face again. "But you know, Dalian... bookstores aren't normally open so late in the night!"
"Even morons know that much," replied Dalian coldly, "Still, you are explaining the obvious. Are you by any chance a moron?"
Huey shrugged his shoulders tiredly.
"Then why do you wake me this late?"
"If we take the first train, we'll reach the capital before noon," she answered his question straight away.
Huey leaned forward, surprised.
"Wait a moment! Do you have in mind to go to the capital just to buy some books?"
"Yes. We will also go to the capital. After buying most of the important books there, we will head to the surrounding places and buy the rest. Am I not being truly effective? Now hurry up and get yourself prepared when you're done admiring my brilliance," the black-dressed girl said, before turning from him and leaving the room. After looking after her for a few moments in blank amazement, Huey took his pocket watch once again.
"...oh please spare me."
There was still nothing but darkness beyond the window.
 Part 2
That bookstore was situated in a side street of the university town which was lively with restaurants and shops.
The interior of the two-story building was buried in tall bookshelves in which countless books were put tidily. With sparkling eyes, Dalian looked around in the shop and as soon as she had found a shelf to her liking, she rushed to it like an energetic puppy.
"Hm, a fairly good range of goods." Dalian flashed a smile while looking up at the titles in the shelf.
"This is the oldest university town in our country. If you're looking for scientific books, I think you'll have better fortune here than in the capital," said Huey as he sighed. He wiped away the tears at the corner of his eyes and shook his head slightly to get rid of his sleepiness.
Dalian didn't give him an answer, but she was in a high spirited mood that was not often seen.
She scurried around in the store, took all kinds of books just to put them back, and at last, stood still before a shelf deep inside the store. Then, after searching with her gaze for someone that looked like a shop assistant, she called him roughly.
"Hey, that shopman over there. Hand us all the books from this shelf to that shelf in the corner over there!"
The shop assistant turned around, bothered and wordless.
A queerly clothed black girl had entered his shop and was saying absurd things; who could blame him for parading his discontent?
Dalian, irritated by his attitude, twisted her mouth, "Have you not heard me, you midlife loafer?! I just told you that I'm doing the compliment to you of buying all the books from here to there!"
Huey rushed to Dalian in a hurry. He covered the mouth of the ranting girl and removed her forcefully from the baffled shop assistant.
"Stop it! What are you doing, Huey!" Dalian struggled fiercely to come free by flailing around her arms and legs. With a scowl, she glared at Huey, "Let go of me! You rude fool! You reek like a geezer!"
Huey acquiesced and let go of her. Dalian was pulled down by gravity, however, and fell to the ground headfirst. Her armor produced a deafening noise.
Huey shook his head and let out a sigh.
"Dalian. Listen up. Don't you think it's strange to buy books like that?"
"...What's strange is your head. What is wrong with buying books in a bookstore?" A teary-eyed Dalian looked up at him with resenting eyes, while holding her reddened forehead.
"You know, you don't normally buy whole shelves! We haven't come here to buy heads of sardines or something, after all."
"But Wez has always bought books this way."
Dalian glared at Huey in disbelief, who then frowned slightly. "Wez" was the nickname of his grandfather who had passed away half a year ago.
Wez was a so-called bibliomaniac and famous in a certain lobby. Consequently, the mansion Huey had inherited from him was filled with thousands upon thousands of books. It was said that among those books one could even find some curious and banned books that his grandfather had bought for horrendous prices, as well as cursed books. Apparently, he had once given away half of his property for a single book.
"Don't compare me to my grandfather. In the first place, how do you plan on getting all those books home? Besides, we haven't brought enough money with us anyway."
"Ngh... then what should we do?"
Dalian bent her brows in disturbance.
Huey just shrugged his shoulders, "Just choose those you really want to read. Restrict yourself to five or six books and I'll buy them for you."
"Five or six?!" Dalian widened her eyes. She shook her head weakly as though she had experienced a huge shock. "You tell me to select five or six books from that great number? How do you call this type of torture?! Is it so fun tormenting me?! Do you make a fetish of harming others, you hopeless sado?"
"At any rate, we aren't going to buy a whole shelf. Select only the ones you need."
Ignoring the girl's tirade, he headed back deeper into the store.
The bookstore did not only handle scientific books, but also dramas and the latest novels.
While letting out a sigh, Huey took one of the new releases that had been piled. It was a detective novel by a popular author. At first, he only speed read some of the pages, but as soon as there was a most mysterious incident, he started to flip through it with a serious mien.
In the beginning, Dalian left it at just scowling at him, but then she sneaked behind him on her tip-toes and whispered into his ear, "It's the mail delivery."
"The culprit masqueraded as the postman. He concealed the corpse in a luggage bag, therefore the gatekeepers didn't notice."
Huey contorted his face when he was suddenly given away the ending, whereas Dalian chuckled mischievously. While glaring at her with a sidelong-glance, Huey took another book from a shelf.
Dalian narrowed her eyes immediately, "In this one it's the narrator himself, the doctor. Just read the depiction carefully when the corpse gets discovered."
"Why are you doing this?!" Huey burst out.
Dalian countered, unimpressed, "You were mean to me first."
"I merely taught you common sense!"
Understandingly enough, his voice was rough. Dalian pursed her lips and sulkily turned her head from him.
Suddenly, someone—it was a laughing woman's voice—addressed them from behind.
"Hey, hey, don't fight at such a place. You're just causing trouble!"
When Huey turned around, he found a young woman who was carrying a book, which she had apparently been reading.
Her age was around Huey's; either in her late teens or at most, in her early twenties. She was rather short, but still a head taller than Dalian.
She could surely be called beautiful because of her pretty face, but what left even more of an impression was her smile. She laughed innocently like a child.
"If you lack the money to buy those books, shall I lend you some? I'll set a high interest rate though," teased the young woman while peeking into Huey's face.
Huey gazed at her, completely taken by surprise. "...Camilla?"
"Yaaay! It's been a while, Huey. Why didn't you get in touch with me when you've come back to England?" Camilla nodded over-happily.
While all this was happening, Dalian was hiding behind Huey.
At last, she hesitantly poked out half her head with utmost care. It was the behavior of a small animal. Moreover, she had taken a thick book and was shielding her head with it.
While pulling the hem of Huey's coat, she whispered, "Who's that blonde over there that looks as if she had no strong points at all apart from her face?"
"Well... how should I put it...," whispered Huey ambiguously.
Camilla leaned towards Dalian, "Who's this little one? Isn't she a little too tall for your daughter, Huey?"
"...daughter?!" The black-dressed girl reddened and was bereft of speech. Apparently, she took offense at being treated like a child and trembled in anger.
Camilla, however, laughed unaffectedly and said brightly, "No, just joking! Don't worry, I'm informed. You're looking after the girl your grandfather has adopted, right?"
"Adopted... huh. More or less, yeah...," Huey nodded awkwardly.
After hearing him out with a raised brow, Camilla suggested, "I'd love to chat a bit with you. Do you have time to have a cup of tea with me?"
"We should have time," he said and turned around to the girl behind him. Dalian puffed her cheeks and glared at Camilla.
Camilla put her finger on her lips, pondering over something, and looked up at the ceiling. Then she took out a little package from her bag for some reason.
The package was wrapped with a ribbon and was from a famous confectionery on this street. As soon as she untied the ribbon, the delicious smell of baked sweets filled the air.
Camilla opened the package and Dalian leaned forward.
She closed the package and Dalian quickly hid behind Huey.
Camilla opened the package and Dalian stuck out her head again.
"How about enjoying a cup of tea together? I'll even add some freshly baked sweets! Wow!" Camilla asked with a broad smile.
Dalian fell into silence, caught between the two options that enfolded before her, but eventually asked with a oddly serious voice, "...will I get some clotted cream to the scones?"
"Yes, of course. I'll even get you some jam for your black tea!" Camilla nodded and laughed merrily.
After putting back the book to its original place, Dalian walked towards her. Then she turned back to Huey and urged him with reproaching eyes, "What are you waiting for? We're going!"
 Part 3
Huey and Dalian were taken to Camilla's holiday house within the town.
It was a pleasant building that had a little, yet beautiful garden. There was a large river nearby, which they could admire from the glass veranda where the tea room was.
"Huey and I are childhood friends!" explained Camilla, while delighting in watching Dalian, who was still a little wary of her. "My father works as a trader, you know, so our families have known each other for quite long. Especially Old Wez because he was a patron of us and visited our mansion quite often. That's also how I met Huey."
Dalian wordlessly turned her gaze towards Huey in order to have him confirm Camilla's statement. He seemed to be a little bothered and sighed.
"That was ages ago! She went to the new continent for a while."
"New continent?" Dalian slightly raised an eyebrow.
"Yay!" Camilla showed her the thumbs up and nodded over-cheerfully.
Dalian was taken aback and put on a frown. Apparently, she was overwhelmed by Camilla's America-style frankness.
"I was there conducting some of my father's business. I've returned right after the war was over."
"So that's why you're dressed like this?" asked Dalian, apparently having a queer aha moment, while wandering with surveying eyes upon Camilla's clothes from top to bottom.
"Ugh... so it looks strange, after all? But over there it's quite normal..." she explained herself, whispering, while holding up the hems of her skirt with her fingers.
Though not as much as Dalian, her appearance was also quite uncommon.
She wore a white blouse with a necktie, and a fedora on her head. Her slightly peculiar yet pretty fair hair was cut at shoulder length and on her feet were tall lace-up boots. The unadorned skirt she wore was fastened with a leather belt so massive one could tuck a gun into it. She looked much more like one of the pioneers of the new continent rather than a daughter of a wealthy man in the capital.
"Come to think of it, why were you in that bookstore anyway, Camilla?" asked Huey suddenly.
Her parents were wealthy and managed several enterprises, hence, it would have been normal for someone in her position to just send a servant or call a bookseller home.
Camilla, however, shook her head casually.
"I wouldn't necessarily bother going myself for normal books, yeah. But you know, since it's about the textbooks I'm going to give to the kids, I wanted to check and select them with care."
Dalian cocked her head.
"I'm voluntarily running a small private school. You see, there are kids that live in poor families and can't afford a governess but still wish for higher education. Well, as soon as they manage to enter some university, they may be awarded a grant, but until then, there's no way around studying on their own. And that's what I'm helping them with," explained Camilla proudly.
Dalian surveyed her with marveled eyes and formulated her thoughts, "...you are one queer woman."
Huey gave a laugh and nodded. "She is. Has always been."
"How rude!" Camilla put her hands on her hips. "To begin with, you're no different, Huey. Have you found it by now?"
"—the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian." Camilla flashed a grin. "The private library that goes by the name of the demon that reigns over knowledge and is depicted with books in his hands. The prohibited repository that holds 900,000 and 666 phantom books, of which none ought to exist. You've been searching for that all the time, haven't you?"
"Who knows?" Huey feigned ignorance. While giving Dalian, who was glaring at him with a sidelong glance, a shrug, he added, "Did I ever talk to you about such a thing?"
Camilla got a little huffy and approached his face.
"You can't tell me that you forgot! I've been looking forward to seeing it, you know, since I thought Old Wez could actually possess it."
Huey refrained from answering and instead took a sip of the black tea that had been brought by a maid.
Camilla let out a big, stressed sigh, upon which she immediately contained herself and raised her face. "Right! Now that we're talking about books, I've been meaning to ask you something. Say, are there books that make you brighter?"
"...books that make you brighter?"
"Yeah. Books that raise your intelligence just by reading them."
"Well, I do think there's always something you can gain from reading a book. Be it knowledge, imagination or something else," Huey answered frankly.
However, Camilla shook her head with a surprisingly serious mien. "That's not what I mean! Just by simply reading it, you get as bright as though you were someone completely different. For instance, you suddenly know things you aren't supposed to know or you become able to easily solve the most complex calculations."
"A book that raises your mental faculties...?"
"Mh, yeah. I think that's what it is." Camilla paused to think, but nodded before long. "To tell the truth, I'm talking about Mildred."
"Mildred...? Do you mean the Mildred from the Dewar family?"
Huey struggled to recall the face of a woman he had completely forgotten about, letting his gaze wander in the room.
With a wry smile while watching him do so, she replied, "Yes, that disagreeable witch. Remember? She's running a private school, too, you know. Anyway, a while back, she came accosting me, burning with rivalry, and that's when she told me that she obtained a phantom book that raises the intelligence of her students."
"...a phantom book?" Huey's mien darkened. "Did she say it was a phantom book?"
"Yes. Full of pride, I tell you," said Camilla while twisting her lips. Then however, she seemed a little worried. "But you know, after that, she changed. She suddenly stopped leaving her house... and fearfully said she couldn't handle her students anymore because they got too intelligent..."
"Too intelligent...?" Huey turned around to Dalian, still with a stern expression. "How do you think about it, Dalian?"
"Books that teach learning styles are not rare at all," Dalian ill-humoredly scowled at Camilla. "It's recorded that mnemonic techniques had already been used 2500 years ago in ancient Greece, and many ancient cultures had developed their own ways of rapid calculations to calculate complex problems mentally."
"Simonides' memory palace and Vedic Mathematics, right?" Camilla noted.
Dalian widened her eyes, "Yes. It seems you have done your homework... though you don't look like it."
"Ugh... I don't look like it? What do you mean...?" Camilla sobbed while sloughing her shoulders. "But anyway, it's not related to those things. I've only heard of it myself, too, but apparently not only their knowledge, but also their way of thinking and personality changed completely in just a few days' time..."
"In a few days?" Huey raised an eyebrow.
It was a physical impossibility that by reading a book, the intelligence of a student would rise so abruptly as to frighten the teacher—if it was just a normal book.
If something of that kind had really happened, then they were made to read an abnormal book.
"I see...," Dalian put a frown on her clean face and sighed. "I may have come upon something. It's presumably a real phantom book. The so-called Liber Sapientiae which was written by a nameless latin. To think that such a thing was still out there somewhere..."
After saying this, she kept quiet with a contorted face. Apparently, that phantom book was connected with unpleasant memories.
"A phantom book that lifts one's intelligence without limit, huh. It should be a good idea to collect it as soon as possible."
Huey stood up with a sight. However, Dalian moved no muscle.
"No... just let it be," she said, while adding some sugar to her tea.
Huey countered with a slightly strained voice, "But it's a phantom book! What if it crosses the boundary because someone who doesn't have the qualifications is reading it?"
"The 'Book of Wisdom'... awards its reader perfect knowledge. The reader is able to reign over the people or to destroy the world if he wants to."
Huey was clearly disturbed by Dalian's dreadful statements.
"Then we should get it all the more..."
"Just let it be," ordered Dalian coldly. "The initial issue of the 'Book of Wisdom' is already in the Bibliotheca. I don't need two editions of the same book. If you get on all fours before me, I may even deign to show it to you?"
"I wouldn't go that far for it!" Huey shook his head, irritated.
So far, Camilla had only watched their exchange with confusion, but now she joined their conversation. "Hey, you two. What are you talking about? Phantom books? Bibliotheca? ...it sounds almost as if the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian really..."
When Camilla asked this evident question, Dalian cowed her with a severe gaze. Then she gave her thumbs up and said, "Yay".
Camilla twisted her lips bewilderedly upon accidentally responding to Dalian by giving her thumbs up as well.
 Part 4
Mildred Dewar's mansion was just on the opposite side of the river.
She didn't want to meet anyone at first because she was in a foul mood, but as soon as they told her that Camilla had sent them, she let them in, though only grumpily.
The woman that welcomed them in the parlor, Mildred, was a little older than Huey. She clad herself in tidy clothes and had pulled her brunette hair into a chignon. She could be called an example of a sober person who cultivates good manners, so it was no surprise that she didn't get along with Camilla. Her clean-living countenance, however, looked somewhat exhausted.
"Lord Hugh Anthony Disward?" Mildred let out a ill-humored sigh upon listening to Huey's self-introduction. "I remember you. You're a friend of Camilla Sauer Keynes'. What do you want? Did you come to laugh at me?"
Huey smiled wryly at her blatantly offensive attitude.
"That's not it! I would merely like to hear something from you about the phantom book you've obtained."
"...I don't want to tell you," Mildred refused point-blank. "Why don't you just ask the students directly? They'll tell you anything! They are monsters, after all!"
"Monsters?" Huey wrinkled his brow. "It's cruel to call your own students like this."
"Oh, you know nothing, do you?" Mildred laughed out. It was a very bitter laugh, as if a hole opened in a beautiful sculpture. "Those children have surpassed us humans. They have monstrous computational ability, a perfect power of understanding and have knowledge in all kinds of fields... in their eyes we're just lower creatures in line with monkeys!"
Huey's expression disappeared more and more from his face. Not because he was frightened, but because he was fed up from the bottom of his heart with the nuisance he had earned himself.
"Children whose knowledge has risen dramatically in just a few days, huh... if they have really become monsters greater than humans, what will they use their power for...?"
"I don't know," Mildred shook her head impassively. Although the sun was still high in the sky, she reeked slightly of alcohol. "We couldn't stop them anyway. If they felt like it, it would literally be a child's play for them to subjugate mankind or even bring about our ruin!"
"...did the phantom book turn them into what they are now?"
"It did! It's all the fault of that book and the strange figures in there!"
"Where are the children at the moment?"
Mildred answered his question silently by pointing at the backyard of the mansion.
A plain, old, wooden building stood there. Apparently, it had originally been used by the gardener and his family, but has since then been altered in order to be used as a private schoolroom.
One could see several children inside the room.
Even though their teacher, Mildred, was absent, they showed no sign of playing around. Instead, they were seated in a circle and leading a heated discussion. Such a picture was no rarity in a university, but seeing young children discuss something expressionlessly was accompanied by an eerie out-of-place feeling.
"I wish I'd never obtained that book. How foolish I was for trying to triumph over Camilla... the children were so cute before then, though perhaps not so clever...," whispered Mildred while sinking into her chair.
She was apparently quite worn-out physically. Huey judged it was not possible to get more out of her.
He thanked her and stood up.
Right before they left the parlor, Dalian turned around to the gloomy Mildred and said calmly, "Humans are not necessarily more diligent or happier than monkeys."
Mildred raised her face, surprised, and gazed blankly after Dalian as they left.
The interior of the small private school was in general rather dirty and dust-covered.
What enfolded before them when they opened the creaking door was a small schoolroom, consisting of a blackboard with chalk stains on it and a teacher's desk. Moreover, six children had put together their run-down desks and were sitting around them.
Judging by their looks, they had probably only just absolved elementary school. One could almost see no stirring of emotion in their countenances, and their eyes had a touch of apathy.
Upon noticing Huey and Dalian, they turned around wordlessly.
The children didn't look disinterested, but actually seemed to enjoy observing the behavior of their visitors. As if dealing with a stray cat they had found, they waited for a reaction.
"Are you Mildred's students?" asked Huey.
Multiple children opened their mouth simultaneously:
"We are, so?"
"Are you the Black Biblioprincess and her keykeeper?"
"The caretaker of the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian, huh... Most interesting. It actually exists?"
"Did you come for the 'Book of Wisdom'?"
Their utterances disturbed Huey slightly.
"...Do you know about us?"
Only a very small number of people, familiar with occult knowledge like magic, were supposed to know about the Biblioprincess, proprietor of the phantom library called "Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian", and her servant.
Mere common children couldn't possibly know those terms, no matter how high their intelligence was. But they responded easily, while Huey was more and more surprised.
"There is a hypothesis called 'Six degrees of separation'."
"It's an idea that implies that you are acquainted with almost anyone on Earth within six steps that go like 'the friend of a friend of a friend'."
"In short, you can basically obtain any information you want. Even young children like us can."
"Our teacher sadly didn't understand it, though, no matter how many times we explained it to her..."
Their artless laughter resounded within the silent classroom.
Huey caught a glimpse of Mildred's mansion and then let out a weak sigh.
"May we have your phantom book?"
He was sure they'd refuse, but the children nodded readily without further ado.
"Sure. We don't need it anymore."
With a rather surprised expression, Huey reached for the old book on the desk.
There was nothing in the book that looked like letters. Only maze-like queer patterns and figures filled the pages, resembling the walls of ancient ruins.
"This book releases the potential capability of a child's brain."
"I'm sure you have heard of those rare people among the mentally retarded and autistics that are gifted with a superhuman computational ability or superhuman memory, right?"
"The potential capability of a human brain is about that high!"
"The patterns that are drawn in this phantom book are designed to build a neural network to tap those capabilities postnatally. Unfortunately though, it only works for children because their brains are still amenable to influence."
Huey wrinkled his brow and closed the book. He braced himself against the wall with his hand, apparently feeling a little dizzy, and shook his head.
"Mnemonic devices and calculation techniques were originally meant for ancient statesmen like priests," Dalian explained to Huey in a disinterested voice. "In order to parade their superiority to the uneducated population, they were in need of a way to calculate the orbit of celestial bodies or to remember their complicated canons by heart."
The children nodded eagerly to the explanation of the black-dressed girl.
"Their knowledge, such as their calculation techniques and mnemonic devices, was then strictly locked away in order to preserve their special privileges."
"Only a very small part has been passed on to our age in form of mathematics and fortune-telling."
"The real technologies of the ancient priests have been lost along with their ruin."
"Well, and one of those you find in this book. A technique they had used to train new priests and priestesses."
Huey had mixed feeling about being one-sidedly instructed by children. He let out a weary sigh.
"...What do you plan on doing with that technology?"
His right hand was in his coat, feeling a black, metal object—a top-break revolver that was loaded with six bullets.
The children blinked in wonderment.
"Hm? We don't have any plans really."
"Eh?" Huey breathed dubiously.
However, there was no sign of a previously arranged lie. No, they even laughed with pleasure.
"Did you think we would want to seize control of the world in place of the foolish grownups?"
"Oh well, it wouldn't be impossible if we went for that."
"First comes the economy. It's possible to earn a healthy profit in a short time by trading in the futures market with money taken from investment funds."
"An interesting option would be interfering in politics with the earned funds. Specifically we could also stir up the army of a politically instable country and have them start war. That would make the prices soar and enable us to make a good deal of money out of the exchange rate."
"On top of that, it would be easy to exploit the anxiety of the population then. We mustn't forget religion. We could, for instance, try interweaving economic and scientific terminology into the doctrines."
"Well, but we won't do that."
"Yeah, we won't."
Huey inclined his head, now completely baffled.
The children sighed to his question.
"Look, what good comes for us from ruling the world?"
"That would only get us some stressful time. After all, we might be assassinated some day by a subordinate after finally ascending the throne with difficulty."
"Why do capable people like us have to look after the foolish masses that only stand in our way?"
Huey, at a loss, looked back and forth between their faces and the phantom book in his hands.
"In that case, what are you going to do henceforth?"
With chins on their palms, they replied listlessly:
"Didn't you hear us? Nothing!"
"We'll just idle our time away without even working."
"While our parents are still alive, they'll care for us, and it should be feasible to make ends meet by taking advantage of ostentatious people like the teacher of this school."
"Don't worry. We don't have in mind resorting to irrational means like stealing."
A bunch of children with vacant eyes were there, laughing amusedly.
While gazing at them with a helpless expression, Huey said, "But with that knowledge of yours, couldn't you become researchers and develop new theories and such, you know...?"
"It doesn't pay if you take our chances of success into consideration."
They looked up at Huey with derogatory eyes.
"Even if we entered a renowned university, as long as you don't have money and connections, you won't go very far. Even if you found a good job, you would end up being sponged on by your superior."
"In the first place, what should we do if we succeeded and became rich? Live a happy-go-lucky life without working?"
"We'd better do that without working to begin with, then."
While listening to them, Huey held his head as though he suffered from a fierce head-ache.
With a tired expression, he leaned on the wall, "Yeah... I'm sorry. I also don't know what's right anymore..."
In order to give him a leg up, one child said, "Well, I suggest you take that book and go home."
Huey nodded powerlessly.
"I'll do that!"
By the time they left Mildred's mansion, it was already near evening. The evening sun was approaching the horizon, shining in the colors of apricot jam, while the reflection on the water threw a reddish light on their faces.
"Dalian, did you know that possessors of the 'Book of Wisdom' become like that...?" asked Huey while trudging forth.
"That's why I told you to let it be," grumbled Dalian before she continued with a pitying sigh, "Those who are really intelligent realize before challenging something that the odds are against them. If you don't want to lose, just don't try to do anything in the first place."
"I see", murmured Huey, "Come to think of it, I get the impression that most of the memorable individuals in history weren't geniuses, but just stubborn and persistent."
Dalian let out a mischievous giggle and looked at him.
"Rejoice. It seems you aren't completely hopeless."
"...why oh why doesn't that please me?" Huey said with a frown.
After they had walked for a while along the river, a cab came in sight. Dalian quickened her pace a little and turned around to Huey.
"Now that you're done, we have to go back to the mansion of that spinster."
"Spinster...? Do you mean Camilla?" he asked and added with a wry smile, "Now that's rude."
Dalian nodded strongly, "Yes. She hasn't served me the promised scone yet."
"Eh, just for that...?"
She glared at him when he showed his surprise, and continued with an oddly serious tone, "'Just for that'?! You shalt not make light of clotted cream! And as soon as I'm done eating, we will visit some more bookstores!"
"Oh... so you remembered..."
Huey breathed a sigh towards the sunset.
Suddenly, Dalian changed the subject. "By the way, what are you going to do with this phantom book? I don't need it. No good comes from meddling with it."
"A phantom book that raises the intelligence of its readers, huh...," Huey whispered expressionlessly, holding the old, faded book before him, "Well! It is said that one must be a little foolish, if one does not want to be even more stupid!"
He took a crude army lighter out of his coat pocket and set the leather binding aflame.
The book burned down, the ashes dancing in the wind.
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